It’s that time of year when our grass has turned brown and crinkly and I’m giving serious thought to xeriscaping, or maybe installing a Brady-family era AstroTurf lawn.
August is also known in the life of a CSA subscriber as “isn’t it about time we get some freaking tomatoes?”
About six years ago, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle, about the virtues of eating locally. Since then, I’ll admit I’ve been one of those moderately insufferable farmer’s market shoppers, paying exorbitant prices for grass-fed beef and organic beets. We’ve also been subscribers to one community supported agriculture (CSA) program or another each year, which means every spring we start picking up a weekly allotment of locally-grown seasonal vegetables, and I start combing the internet for new ways to make kale palatable, and for answers to what the hell one is supposed to do with kohlrabi.
For anyone not familiar with the emotional life of a CSA devotee, there are distinct phases throughout the course of a season:
- Elation – The early days of the CSA season are filled with irrational enthusiasm for things like baby lettuce, pea shoots, and broccoli rabe. This phase can vary in length depending upon how long it takes our devotee to realize her family will only eat so much lettuce in a week and that one of the best kept CSA secrets is nobody really knows what to do with broccoli rabe except sauté it in butter and garlic, then grind it into a paste and hide it in a glob of mashed potatoes covered with cheese.
- Sanctimony – The holier-than-thou phase is something to which every rookie CSA subscriber succumbs, whether they admit it or not. This is when our devotee might be caught lecturing people in the Albertson’s produce section about how baby carrots aren’t really babies, and holding forth on the relative carbon footprint of the average banana.
- Inquiry – CSAs are probably why Pinterest was invented. How else would anyone know what to do with seven thousand radishes, or that you could hide pureed broccoli rabe in mashed potatoes?
- Cajoling – Kale. It’s a superfood. Just like spinach only better for you. It can be baked into chips, blended into a smoothie, or doused in dressing and covered with bacon and you’re still going to have to bribe your 13 year-old to give it a try.
- Capitulation – The color of giving in to the kid who will turn down whatever miraculous slaw we manage to make out of this week’s share is red. Red delicious, actually, and the only reason we visit the produce section now. Making sure, of course, to avoid eye contact with the guy who received last week’s lecture about the baby carrots.
- Satisfaction – I don’t want to brag, I mean, there may be people winning medals in Brazil right now, but I just made dinner out of three CSA items, a package of pasta and that leftover chicken I found wedged in the freezer. I could do with a little applause, thank you.
- Incredulity – There’s not a recipe on the planet that calls for more than one half of one leek, so would someone please tell me what I’m supposed to do with eleventy thousand of them?
- Denial – I got it. I’ll make a minestrone. I’ll use up a good half of this week’s share in the process. Yes, you CAN SO put kale in minestrone, and leeks. Watch me.
- Guilt – The predominant sentiment in the waning weeks of the CSA season, when the crisper drawer is crammed with vegetables that could feed a family for a week, and to which we likely won’t get before they’ve halfway rotted. But all anyone really wants right now is take out pizza.
And then, much later ….
- Nostalgia – Long after the end of the CSA season, say, sometime around February, when the skies are grey and we’re surrounded by slush, we’ll think fondly of the days when fresh lettuce went on for miles, and mashed potatoes served as camouflage.
In the meantime, here are some coping strategies, er, recipe ideas:
Minestrone for the person who is allergic to beans (yes, it’s a thing): A big ole bowlful of love
What to do with a couple bazillion cherry tomatoes (look for the link for Cherry Tomato Salad)
My sister-in-law gave me buckets of cherries and we’re still friends.
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